Hair and the Artifice of Roman Female Adornment

by Elizabeth Bartman
Hair and the Artifice of Roman Female Adornment
Elizabeth Bartman
American Journal of Archaeology
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Hair and the Artifice of Roman Female Adornment



Roman female hairst~les tvcre highl! indivitlrlalirrd, gendrl-edc~ilt\u-alnlal-kel-s, in nlany casea having a physiognomic I-olr in a portrait like the fare itsrlf. The paucin of s111-r.iving organic I-vrnains rrquircs that tvc. cons~tlta]: tistic representatiorla in painting and sc~ilptr~r-e

to assess the forrrls of chese hail-stylrs. Dcspite theil often Lrnci- fr~lcollceptions, the\ do not represrnt artistic in\-entions; but ath her elaborate coiffnres rrlatle with real h~t- rnan hait; rtsually the sitrrr's orvn. Thus ~vig wraring rnay not havr bern ;IS conlnlon as has heen imagined; the practice of sl~ppl!-ingrnarble staturs \\,it11 I-ernovahie wigs in contrasting storlr is not in itself e\.idence for the t\eal-ing ofwigs in antiquity. Slodrrn cornrnentary or, {he hairst~les xiorrl by Ronian Ttomen asatinies freqr~ent changtxs of hairstyle. .in interpretation hasvtl on a rnisreading of thr ancient evidence and esserltialist \.ir\\s of ~t-ornen.'~'

She knoars her man. and \vI~en you rant and swear, can draw you to her with a single hair. Persitis Satjrirn-5.246 (trans. John nll.ticn)

In ancient Rome hair was a nlajor detenninal~t of a wolnan's physical attractiveness and was t.hus deemed worthy of considerable exertions to create a flattering appeararice. .Jttst as eve17 face had its own physiognom); so did female hairstyles wry- along ~vith looks, a ~volnan's age, social stattts, ancl public role influenced her choice of coiffure. This ~ariety has proved in\.aluable in identifying Iiistori- cal individuals, thereby enabling scholars to con- struct a chronolom of Rolnan portraiture and, by extension, Roman art.

Yet notwithstanding their pivotal role in the his- toriography of Roman portrait~~re.

ancient hairstyles remain poorly understoocl. Like all organic remains, human hair rarely s~lrvives in archaeological sites; in lieu of'direct matcrial evidence, Jve must turn to artistic representations in painting and sculpture in order to reco~istruct Roman coiffures. Freestand- ing sculptecl portrait statues ailcl busts provide the

:" tthankBettina Bergnlann,,Pnr Fqjfn-. and YIira~ldaYIar- \in for their close I-cadings of this text in its earlier drafts. and also AJi's nvoanonJmous readers forastute criticism. Ba1.lm-a Borg, (:orevBrenrtan. John Collis, Elizabeth Harrlev, Xntolti-

richest source of information: because of their large numbers and detailed execution, sc-ulpted portraits from the second to third centuries C.E. will be the focus of this article, while the parallel evidence of painting, coins, and gems will be admitted only occasionall!: This article does not intend to i;urvey tlie development of Roman female hairstyles' but rather seeks to illunlinate their social and cultural implication5 in the portrait: as gender marker, man- ifestation of ctrltrrs (cultur-e), and ph\siognornic sign no less expressive of personal identity than the face itself. M"lether crafted by household slaves or the wearer hcrself, a wornall's hairstyle con\eyed her individuality Except hr some overtly divinizing el- ements, the female coiffures that are recorded in sc~llptetl portraits reproduce real styles that cotlld be rnadc with human hair. That many female hair- styles toy with that reality by a physical size or elabo- ration that implies artificiality is a par-adox; the illu- sion of artifice reflects, and also contributes to, the long-standing association in antiquitv of ornament ~tith the feminine realm.

%pically comn~issioned as honorific works, life- si~epxiblic portraits aimed to depict the sitter ill a positi\-e mode, as a \-irtuous individual as well as an example of the best of her sex. Hence we can use tlie portrait ancl one of its primary f(*atures, hair, in order to reconstruct ancient attitudes about gender. M'hile men's hair may have required no less daily attention than ~vomen's, the styling as well as the so- cial response it engendered were radicall?. differ- ent. For example, lengthy groonling sessions that lvere tolerated and even encouragecl for women were taboo for men, and throughout most of tlie period under consider-ation wo~nen's hair was carved ac- cording to different techniques than Rornan sculp- tors used for men's. One thing both sexes had in common, however, was the use of false hair, ~vhether "extender" tresses or full wigs. Hair came to be irn-

etta \Tacava, and Greg'i2holf assiated on specific pointu. I For sr~ch treatnleltts, see l'irgili 1989, 37-62; '11annspcl-grr 1998: Sleininger 191% 2135-30.


occasionally escape the hairdresser's control, but in real life hairpins, nets, and snoods \vould have kept female locks firmly in place. Such accessories ensured that women's coiffures had none of the lively movement that animated men's hair (perhaps in deliberate evocation of Alexander's leonine locks). Whereas a man's hair implied his active role, a woman's connoted passivity. With the addition of costly ornaments of gold or ivory, the female coif- fure connoted wealth and luxury

Roman sculptors also used formal style and can- ing techniques to gender the coiffures of men and wornen. In the Imperial period under discussion here, the physical appearance of the hair itself dif- fered in female and male portraits."Interestingly, the eyebrows of both sexes, ~vliich also were subject- ed to intensive groorning, tended to be treated in the same manner.)" In the Flavian period of the late first century C.E., for example, most men have hair trirnrned short on the crown and lacking strong plasticity while their wo~nenfolk go to the opposite extreme, wearing dramatic curls carved with strong chiaroscuro effects. During the next few decades, simple straight hair cut with forehead bangs is pop- ular with Trajanic men, while women sweep their locks off the face into towering mounds. From the mid-second to the early third century C.E., the prac- tice is reversed: male hair on both face and crown is densely textured by deep drilling, while the female is typically rendered inore simply with superficial, noninvasive chi~elwork."~

These changes are no doubt linked to the different types of arrangements worn by men and women in real life, but neither hairdressing nor genetics offers a satisfactory ex- planation for the different treatments. Rather, we must view tliese formal distinctions as the perhaps unconscious evocation of Rornan notions of gen- der: however rnen looked, wornen had to look dif- ferent, even if that difference was achieved by a deliberate falsification of visual appearances. That tliese distinctions occurred during an extended period of' high technical achievement in Roman portrait production-that is, artistic ineptness can- not bear the blame-underscores their participa-

9ee the cornnlents of Fittschen and Zanker 1983,84, 109. Fittschen (1978, 37) makes the same point about different technical modes.

"The options ranged fro111 a cleanly plucked brow to one so fur? that it makes a "\"'01 er the bridge of the nose. Clear- I!, the hro\v's appearance reflected fashion, not genetics. Shapingwould have heen achieved wit11 a razor or t\\.eezers, irnplen~entsattesteclarchaeologically(I7irgili et al. 1990,101, no. 163.)

"'C;ornparison ofthe relevant sections ofFittschen and Zank- er (1985 and 1983) will make these contrasts clear.

" Zanker 199.5, 198-2(i(i.

tion in a process of gendering male and female imagery.

As a rule Roman women had longer hair than men. In metropolitan Rome and the IVest, men usually wore their hair short on the crown and, when fashion or funeral ritual dictated, also on the face. (In the Greek East a different ideal, that of the bearded, long-haired philosopher, ~cliose in- tellectual distractions led him to ignore his groom- ing, prevailed, but even there male hair was regu- larly shorter than female. j " 'The relatively short hair of men, however, did not necessarily lessen the time spent on groorning. Trimming a head of hair and shaving, the rule in Rorne since the second centu- ry B.C.E., were daily occupations, often performed at comrnercial barbering establishments. Later in the Antonine and Severan periods, full beards and longer hair on the crown were standard among males, but a carefully scissored contour ;rvoided the impression of extravagance. (Note that the last An- tonine emperor, Comrnodus, is condemned not for his longish curls but for his habit of sprinkling gold dust on them, a divine pretension.)'"

Apart from routine upkeep, however, the proper Roman male was advised to avoid excessive atten- tion to his hair; the man ~cho curled and annointed his locks risked scorn for appearing effeminate." Such practices had long been associated wit11 East- ern luxury and were highly suspect at Rome; thus a supposedly ~comanly interest in grooming was a stan- dard accusation in political invective.14 Because of these sentiments, baldness posed a delicate prob- lern for the male, who wished to improve his ap- pearance but also preserve his n1:inliness-Julius Caesar inasked his receding hairline with a wreath, while Dornitian and Otlio wore wigs."

hltliougli the use of cosinetics to enhance a worn- an's face and body triggered vitriolic attacks from male writers,"' female hairdressing, notwithstand- ing its daily execution, roused scant CI-iticism. Sati- rists such as Juvenal do take airn at female coiffures, but their quips are relatively mild." In ancient Rome, as in many other societies, women typically had Inore "symbolic capital" invested in their hair

I' Herodian 1.7.5.

"Or. An airi. 1.51; Gell. 6.12, Sen. (:ont,o~i.2, preface 2;

Mart. 10.65.8; see Gleason 1995, 108-9.

'4S11eto11i1~s'scomnlenrs about the hairdressing habirs of Jnlins Caesar (Iul.45) and Sero (*Yo:3 I ) intend such insinti- ations. 011 the Eastern connotations of lusu17 in the early Imperial period, see Griffin 1956. On the classical fifth-centu- 17manifestations of the sentiment, see I-la11 1989.

"'Caesar: Suet. IuL 35.2; Domitian: Sort. Dom. 18; Morgan

1997; <)tho: Suet. Otho 11.

"'Chronicled by Richlin 1995.

''Juv. 6.502; Stat. Sihl. 1.2.113.


The second difficulty in assessing the realis111 of the sculpted coiffure stems from the larger ques- tion of the physical accuracy of the Roman portrait itself. On the one hand, the physiognornic variety found in Roman portraits suggests that the ancient sculptor Tuas a kind of pre~nodern photographer, capturing a "snapshot" of an individual's appear- ance. Yet any serious vie~uer of Roman portraiture recognizes holi both artistry and political ideolog undercut the ph!-siognornic accuracy by ~uhich a sit- ter is rendered. Throughol~t her decades-long por- trait career, for example, the empress Livia remained youthful; even images created ~ihen she was an octogenarian did not betray her encroach- ing age. In the portraiture of a later successor, Faus- tina the Elder, the lack of correlation between the empress's coin portraits and those sculpted in-the- round leads to the conclusion that her images o~ued as much to the particular design principles of the portrait rnedilun as to her appearance in real life." So, too, the nine changes of hairst!-le shown in Faus- tina the Younger's official portraiture ma!- be at least partiall!. fictive, responses to dynastic politics rath- er than changes rnade in the actual coiffure she wore.I'

Not~iithstanding their ideological tint, the fernale hairstyles recorded in sculpted (and painted) por- traits are firmly based in hairdressing reality. Ac- cording to the contemporary hairstylists and I\-ig makers ~ihom I have consulted, most of the Roman coiffures documented in imperial portr' alture


could have been made by a skilled hairdresser us- ing the sitter's own hair. From braids to buns, pin curls to ~narceled "finger sets,"." the standard ele- ments of sculpted coiffures could hare been actu- ally made in antiquity, and indeed they can be re- produced today'' by practiced stylists. In Roman times, such skilled hands were abundant, and ~vom- en of the leisured classes I\-oulcl have had both the staff and the time for lengthy hairdressing ses- sions." Even if I\-e cannot say positively that the hair- style of even portrait represents the actual coiffure worn by the sitter herself, Tve may at least conclude

''Fittschen 1996. 44. "Indred, her sex-enth to righth portrait hpes differ only in minor details. Ser Fittschen 198" ,5.5-62. -I I This tenn finds an ancient anal09 inp,-~r.sopollicr,


uurd by Propertius (3.10.14) ~vhen exhorting his lox-er to preus hrr thumb onto her hairlocl\u in order to snle it.

44Betti11a Bergillan11 and I ha\-e proclucrd a xideo, "Does Shr or Doeun't She?" (1999) in \vhich a contemporar) hair- stylist rrconstructs Fa~istina thr Elder's coiffure.

"Forrpigraphic testimoniaregarclinghail-dreuuers, sre&mpen 1981, 118-20. FVralthy womrn employed multiplr hair- drrssrrs-the empress 1,ivia is attested to ha\-e had five. Evrn

that the designs lie ~uell within the real111 of groom-

ing po~sibility.~"

At a fundamental level, of course, hairdressing was a process similar to sculpture. Most female hairstyles of the late first through third cen- turies C.E. were conceived as structures whose well- articulated shapes and textures made a visual foil to the face. The wide gap that we envision between sculpture, to the modern mind considered a form of high art, and hairdressing, ~ihich is often regard- ed as an elevated form of grooming, was not neces- sarily shared by the Romans.

The astute observer can discern the workings, and thus the fundamental realism, of many sculpt- ed coiffures. I \\ill focus on popular fe~nale coif- fures from the middle and high empire, for these have long triggered accusations of invention. Mter several generations of.Julio-Claudian styles, in which the relative simplicit!- of Livia's tlotlmc and off-swept hair gave way to ever-fussier but still relatively tame arrange~nents,~~

female hairdressing at Rome [In- derwent a major st!-listic change. Characterized by multiple components and towering height, the new styles of the late first and early second centuries

C.E. ~uereelaborate constructions ~ihose very com- plexity challenged the physical possibilities of the sitter's own locks. Their extremism occasioned sa- tirical barbs such as Juvenal's farnous likening of a hairdo to a multistoriecl building.'The vocabulary used today to describe the popular styles-beehive, turban, pillbox, heln~et,~"

hairbouquet (Lijcli~tl- buk~tt)-derives from nonhairdressing contexts and thus aptly conveys their artful construction. XI- though the mockery of Juvenal has vanished, a mor- alizing tone often slips into current disctlssion: acljectives like "flamboyant" and "frivolot~s" and nouns like "confection" and "concoction" hint that the ~t-onlen ~vho~ior-ethese styles Tvere slaves to their appearances and led shallo~i lives. Yet many of these portraits Tiere made at a time of social consema- tisrn, when the Flavian dynasty and then Trajan embraced a do~in-to-earth public image that con- sciously rejected the decadent lifestyles of the last

Julio-Clauclians. In addition, they were worn by im-

the most comphcated co~ffiire~tould

not haxe taken a team of sla\ru illore than an hour or so to execute '' Artistn does seem to take prrcedence oxrI ieal~sm. how rver, in thr aspect of hairline. On thiu question ure below. p.



lx~a'u clean, clausical look distarlcecl hrr from the exces- sively primprd uhles associated with the Helleniutic Eaut. On I,i\ia. see Bartman 1999; on the Agrippii~as. see IVood 1988.

Lh"Totpreinitordinibus. totadhuc coillpa~huu altliill aedifi- cat caplit" (Jliv. 6..502). See aluo Stat. Sih~.1.2.113; hlart. 9.37. "'This term is also atteuted in JL~.

6.120 and Tert. DP c.ull!~ j?rrli,lcrrum 2.7.


man female graves have yielded this accessory in impressive quantities, and they were essential for many hairstyles. The second exception, a second- centun bronze of a woman in Princeton (pl. 2), depicts hair encased in a hairnet. In an extreme manifestation of the quest for mimetic realism, the bronze was cast with a real net."'

In view of the portraitist's reticence in this area, it is not surprising that the wearing of artificial hair, by which I mean human hair not belonging to the wearer, is rarely depicted. This may reflect the skilled deception of the ancient wig, but it also stems from the artistic process itself. In making a portrait the skilled artist imposes a unity of surface, materi- al, and color that the sitter's hairstyle may not have possessed in real life; if all art is an illusion, then the sculpted renditions of coiffures constructed with artificial hair represent a doubled illusion.

Ample literary sources document women's (as well as men's) use of wigs and hairpieces, and the extensive vocabulary they employ suggests a wide range of options. Cnpillamentum, co~ymbium, gnlerum, and pipp pa are favorite, but by no means the only, terms attested."910st wigs in antiquity were made of human hair and fashioned with a level of beauty and craftsmanship largely unobtainable today (In modern times synthetic hair has replaced natural human hair in all but the most expensive wigs.) Although no Roman wigs have survived, evidence from pharaonic Egypt attests to the high quality of ancient hairpieces." The blond hair of Germans and jet black of Indians was preferred for artificial attachments,"' but it is unclear whether their desir- ability stemmed from their color or texture. T/Vhile black Indian hair, documented in a late source, was no doubt obtained through trade, the blond hair of


Germans was one of the spoils of war, at least in the earlv Imperial period. Both Ovid and Martial refer

"'The head is now in the Art M~lr~seum,

Princeton Universi- h (80-10;Jenki~ls and Lfilliams 198'7).

"'Reinach 1896 provides a full coinpilation. For other an- cient sources on hairdressing, see Steininger 1912;T'irgili et al. 1990, 55-8. Although dated, Evans 1906 has many useful obsenations.

""Anig made of linen tinted a chestnut color was among the 18th-centun finds froin the tomb of a Christian Tioman on the Via Ostiensis (Boldetti 1720, 29'7); its present where- abouts are unknown. hrvell-presened nigof Ne~iKingdom date from Thebes gives a sense of the enormous labor involved in makinga top-qualih hairpiece. Both its hanging braids and the mesh that fits, caplike, over the cranium are made of human hair, and each of the some 300 braids brindles together hun- dreds of indi~idual hairs (Stevens Cox 1977).Jl'igs are also extensively docu~nented at Deir el-Bahri (Laskorvska-Kusztal


to "captured" hair (cnptiuos crines), making an ex-

plicit link between the commodification of hair and

Roman power."

Not~vithstanding its implicat~ons of Roman con- quest, a blond braid intenvoven into the dark tress- es of a Mediterranean crown presumablv announced the fictive nature of the coiffure rather emphatical- ly." This unabashed flaunting of artificial locks con- trasts with the generally negative image of wig wear- ing conveyed by many of the literal? sources. Ac- cording to these texts, the wig-wearer (of both sex- es) wore artificial locks to hide baldness and for disguise. But in some instances the context of the verbal testimony warns against too literal a reading, for Juvenal or Martial were satirists who enjoyed skewering the Roman Ornu monde, and Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria were Christian moral- ists opposed to all female adornment. Still, even neutral references such as Ovid's crines empti (pur- chased tresses) and Petronius's description of a lady's wig and false eyebrows in the Satjricon,'"vith their knowing hints of the role that artificial hair played in the grooming of elite Romans, under- score the popular connection between borrowed locks and deception.

Despite the negativism of the literary tradition, the wig is acknowledged in a number of female portraits dating to the early third century suggest- ing that by that time it had acquired cachet. The wig's most influential patron was Julia Dornna, wife of the emperor Septimius Severus (fig. 11).'4 Throughout a public career spanning nearly 20 years, Julia Domna wore a coiffure that encased her head with a thick mass of hair worked into undulat- ing finger waves." ihile not so explicitly rendered as that of a private woman in the Museo Nazionale Romano in Rome (fig. 12),"' her hair can be recog- nized as a wig by its Ilea\?, globular character, the

'"Blonde hair: Ov. Am. 1.14.45-6; Mart. 5.68;Juv. 6.120

(confir~nedby the find of a male skull ~\ith hair from 0sterb~-; Jedding-Gesterling and Brr~stscher 1988,fig.85);Indian hail-:

Dig. 39, 4.16.7 (there is no mention of the import of Indian

hair earlier in the Pm;Olu,\,Maris Eqthmri.)

''Ov., .4m. 1.14.45-6; Mart. 14.26. See Bart~nan 1999, 39. ;'Cf. the Renaissance woman rvho covers her brown hair ~\itha curly blond wig (balm)in a painting of ca. 1530b~

Lorenzo Lotto (London, The National Galleq).

'"Ov. Arc .am.3.165; Sat. 110.

"hlusee dr~ Louvre Ma 1090;de Kersauson 1996, 3'70-1, no. 170. "Schliiter 197'7;Buchholz 1963;Nodelman 1964. See also Fittschen 19'78.

'"orne, hluseo Nazionale Romano 564;Giuliano1979-,1.9 pt. 2, 342-4, no. R 260. K Fittschen (Fittschen and Zanker 1983, 106, 11. 26) does not think that the wig belongs to the


category; in add~t~on,

rnanj of the "orphan" coif- fures, hairpieces that haxe been separated from the rest of the portrait, hale the empress's finger-waved hairst\le.)"' Yet we hale no elidence that the Ro- mans conceived of the separate hairpiece in this way. Xvo different stones were a dramatic, and cost- ly, way of attaining chromatic contrasts between hair and face (paint was another). Essentially, the tech- niques used for a "bewigged" portrait are no differ- ent from those employed in acrolithic stone stat- ues, where the intent clearly was to suggest the sit- ter's own hair."j

Frorn the earliest discussions of separately carved hairpieces, however, historians have advanced another explanation: that it was designed to be easily removed and replaced when the sitter desired to change her coiffure." K. Fittschen has already re- futed this "prospective" theory by noting that many portraits with separately carved hairpieces were fu- nerary commissions and thus represent sitters who could hardly have had expectations of future por- traits."* In addition, fitting an existing head with a new hairpiece was not the simple job it is some- times implied to have been, for hair length, rela- tionship of hair to ears, and shape and size of the bun differed from one coiffure to another and pre- cluded a simple substitution of one wig for anoth- er. Thus the potential for change that modern ob- servers see in detachable headpieces is not likely to have motivated either the female portrait sitter or her sculptor.

Even without solid empirical evidence, the ex- planation of the wig as a medium for updating has long found scholarly adherents because of its reso- nance with contemporary, essentializing assump- tions about female behavior: that women are ob- sessed with their appearance and change their image to keep up with fashion. MXen men, in con- trast, change their hairstyles, it is said to show alle- giance to the emperor or express cultural values.'" In ancient Rorne, however, unlike today changes in dress and hairstyle were not dictated each sea- son by a powerful fashion industry. And one of the primary means by which the rapid change of hair- dressing styles is allegedly demonstrated, charts in

"'Poulsen 1916; Crawford 1917; Schauenhurg 1967; Fittschen and Zanker 1983, 105-6; Kleiner and Matheson 1996, nos. 120, 130 (P.Da~ies).

""Cf. also the techniques of pieced bronzes. See Lattanzi 1987, 148; Menzel 1986, 73, nos. 170-171, pls. 8-1-83. "'Reinach 1896, 1453; Bums 1993; Kleiner and Matheson 1996, 164.


Fittschen and Zanker 1983, 105. '"'E.g., it is implied that men~iho adopt the emperor's hair- syle do so to advance their careers. See also R. Smith 1998,15.

which numerous coiffures are neatly collated,""' is misleading, for these charts show the variety of con- secutive hairstyles worn by different women, not the multiple changes in appearance of a single indi- vidual.

Indeed, some (quite famous) Roman women vir- tually never changed their hairstyle: Livia's por- traits depict her in the simple nodus style of the late Republic for the first three decades of ern- pire, and Faustina the Younger's image shows only minor changes in the coiffure during the last 20 years of her career."" The recent dating of the Fonseca head to the late Trajanic or early Hadrian- ic period"" also demonstrates the longevity of some popular styles-that a woman possessing the beauty and, presumably, wealth of the Fonseca sit- ter would be represented wearing a hairstyle some SO years old strikes a major blow against the view that stylish women transformed their hairdos ev- er). few years. While female fashions indeed shift- ed over time, many women clung to old styles, us- ing them in their portraits as generational mark- ers or as expressions of cultural identity. Indeed, hairstyles were all the more irnportzmt for identifi- cation because so many wornen's faces were ideal- ized. By imagining that an old-fashioned hairstyle required updating, in fact, the modern historian perhaps endows hair with a greater importance than it actually rnay have had in the ancient image. Certainly it assumes that other features of the por- trait, such as the face itself, the clothing worn by the subject, or the bust shape did not themselves change over time and run the risk of appearing outdated.In"

This is not to say that the coiffures of female por- traits were never reworked; in fact, there is scattered evidence for the recutting of hair. hhead in Boston (fig.15),''"or example, wears a tiered toupet coif- fure composed of flat bands whose arcing hair- strands terminate in a spiral curl at the center. At various places, especially along the hairline, the bands are pierced by irregularly spaced drill holes, vestiges of the head's prior "beehive" coiffure. C. \Termeule has identified the head as that of Tra-

jan's niece Matidia, although the face does not


the coiffures are renderedas line drawings, e.g., ~um&van Zxiet 1936, fig. p. 2; L2'egner 1938, figs. 3-4; LVes- sel 19461947, figs. 1-6.

"" Cf. her portrait types 7, 8, and 9 (in Fittschen's 1982


Io2 Fittschen and Zanker 1983, 53-4.

""It should he noted, hotiever, that at least one famous

portrait subject, Julia Dornna, combined ayoungface~\ith "lat- er" hair.

"'4Museum of Fine Arts 1988.327; Herrmann 1991.


been worked to accommodate two separate (but matching) attachments of hair."" It is hard to make a case for updating, as Mamaea's current hairstyle follows close on the heah? wig worn by Julia Dom- na; to recut a Severan style characterized by broad and low-hanging hair into what is now found on the Louvre head would have required interven- tions so substantial that we would expect to see some trace. I I

Did piecing represent a repair? To be sure, the zone behind the ear of typical third-century female portraits was especially prone to breakage because the hair here flipped up and was caned away from the neck. Fittschen has attributed at least one in- stance of piecing to the repair of broken Venus- like shoulder locks."That we see the same piec- ing technique in portraits of short-haired men, where there is no hair to break,"' casts doubt on this all-encompassing explanation. At present all that can be concluded is that piecing was an expe- dient way to apply projecting features such as hair or ears, either when the sculpture was first caned or later recut. Recutting could occur for yarious motives, including a complete transformation of the sitter's identity.Il4

Even the briefest survey of Roman portraiture demonstrates the wide range, or more precisely, the broad interpretation of the preyailing style of woman's coiffures in a particular period. The stacked coiff~~res

popular in the early second centun C.E., for example, share a similar overall shape but vai-y markedly in the components such as braids, coils, or waves used to build that shape."' Individualized in such a way, the coiffure may be likened to the face itself rather than to the stereotypical body type."" It follows that it also must have played an important role in a woman's personal identity: al- though there are exceptions, women seem to have avoided looking just like their neighbors.

'"'Another portrait ofJulia Llamaea in the Capitoline (Fittschen and Zanker 1983, 33, no. 35, pl. 44) gil-es an idea ofwhat the hairoriginallylooked1ike;note that the headsholvs breakage in precisely the same place as the Louvre statue.

' I The subject's ears, pre\iouslyco\-ered bv hair, would need to be caned, as would the flip of hair that rvas rvorked up into a bun.

llTittschen and Zanker 1983, 95, 110.138,pls. 164-163.

'I 'The portraits are the colossal heads ofAlexander Sel-erus and Gordion found together in Ostia (now Rluseo Nazionale Rornano 329 and 3%; Giuliano 1979-, 1.9 pt. 2, 360-2, no. R'273; 1979 1.1, 310-2, no. 186, respectively). See also Calza 1977,65-8, nos. 82,84, pls. 60, 62. Piecing occurs here not in the coiffure, but in the ears projecting frorn the head.

"'There are ample parallelsfor aportrait's complete change of id en ti^. For this period, see Goette 1986; for late first-and early second-centun re~vorkings, see Bergnlann and Zanker BARTMAN [A%JA105

By showing how the hairstyles depicted in Ro- man portraits can actually be made with human hair, I have argued that sculpture reproduces real life. There remains a powerfill exception to this prac- tice, however, in the long tresses hanging onto the shoulders, the "shoulder locks" that are found in female portraits from many periods (e.g., fig. 11). An attribute of Venus, shoulder locks are worn by Roman women to evoke the goddess and the qual- ities connected with her: beauty, sexuality, and fer- tilit):"' As divine signifiers they are no different in their associative role from nudity or the gesture of the hand covering the pubis, yet in their juxtaposi- tion with patently historical features such as the face and its coiffure, they collapse the boundaries between real and fictive. Their presence makes clear that Romans were accustomed to seeing "through" multiple levels of visual reality.llVhey are powerful reminders that, notwithstanding their physiognomic realism, Roman portraits were ideo- logical statements about social status, gender, and cultural values.





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